Three Days to Go!

Three Days to Go!!!

January 31 – February 6, 2016

Morning Afternoon Notes
Sunday 13
Monday 8
Tuesday 10 6 Drills, 8 x 20 sec, Core
Wednesday 17 Workout, 12 x 3 min
Thursday 8 6 Core
Friday 12
Saturday 12 8 x 200m
Week Total 92

I have sat down and deleted my first three times attempts to write my final blog before the Trials in a few days. But that does not count the times within those three attempts that I have written for a few minutes and deleted only to rewrite. Basically I am a bit lost for words. Before Twin Cities, it seemed so much easier to put my thoughts on paper. Maybe that was because I was so naïve to the gargantuan task that was before me. This weekend is not different in that sense. I know that it will be hard, and probably harder than Twin Cities was. I just have to remember that I am more prepared, mentally and physically. Since Twin Cites, I have had over 16 months of mostly great training, and in that time, I have had the most success as a runner.

I know that this one is short; by far my shortest blog yet, and just reiterates things I have already said in the past few weeks. I guess it is just a final check in before the Trials, to let everyone know that I am “oiled, greased, and ready to roll,” as Coach Vandenbusche says. See you on the streets of LA!

2016 Feb - Sunny Hill Road

Ups and Downs of Marathon Training

3 Weeks to go!

January 17 – 23

Morning Afternoon Notes
Sunday 8 Core
Monday 10 6 10 x 35 sec, Core
Tuesday 21 Long Run
Wednesday 8 6 Core
Thursday 8
Friday Off
Saturday 6
Week Total 73
Cruising along at St Marks! Feeling good for in a few weeks time!

Cruising along at St Marks! Feeling good for in a few weeks time!

For the last five years I have been relatively healthy. Other than four weeks last winter, I have not taken off more than a few days due to injury. All of this is part of the process, and when injury rears its ugly head, how you deal with it is often the most important . A quick and smart reaction can keep a minor leg crap from developing into something much worse. My week started out with a fantastic long run on Tuesday, one that I gained lots of confidence headed into the Trials. Then a little hiccup at the end of the week put a damper on everything, but a quick allowed me to only miss a few days of training.

The Ups

Tuesday’s long run was a standard marathon long run from the Pete Rea playbook. In the build up to Twin Cites, I did this workout on the course, during Cole and my course preview. After a warm up I had a workout of 5, 4, 3, and 1 miles, with a mile float in between each, so 16 miles total. Each segment was supposed to be a tad faster than the previous. We headed to the St. Marks bike path, as that is the closest we can get to what the LA course will be like. We even did the whole workout within the first three miles of the path, to replicate a complete 180-degree turn while running fast.

Workout:
5-4-3-1, mile float between

Overall it was a good workout. I was just a tad faster than what Pete had prescribed, especially on the float, but it all felt relaxed, like I could run that pace in the middle of a marathon. Since this is one of the first workouts that I can compare to my previous build up, that is what I will do!

Splits:
5:01, 5:03, 5:04, 5:07, 5:00 (25:15), 5:36; 
4:59, 4:57, 4:58, 4:57 (19:53), 5:26; 
4:53, 4:51, 4:50 (14:35), 5:38; 4:42 
16 miles in 1:21:10, 5:04 avg.
TC Splits:
5:04, 5:13, 5:00, 4:57, 5:00 (25:14); 5:45;
4:53, 5:00, 4:55, 4:50 (19:38); 5:40;
4:59, 4:53, 4:57 (14:49, Up the hills!); 5:38; 4:50
16 miles in 1:21:34, 5:06 avg.

Looking at the workout as a whole, there is not much difference between the two. I ran only 24 seconds slower over the 16 miles at the TC build up, which most of that time was from having slower floats, like I was prescribed. But the fast floats showed I was able to recover while running fairly fast, and was able to gain some confidence. After each interval was not “dying” to slow down. I was very much in control and trying to slow down. For example the first 400m of my first float was at 5:20 pace and made a conscious effort to slow down even more!

Another thing that really stands out to me is how much more even of a pace I was running this time. On the relatively flat St. Marks bike path, I was able to find a good rhythm and cruise. This was probably another reason why I was able to recover while being so relaxed on the floats. I must also mention that the Twin Cites course is much hillier than the bike path, which changed how I ran the workout. I specifically remember gaining great deal of confidence from being able to run sub 5 minute miles up those late hills on the TC course, knowing that if I could do that in the race, I would put myself in a good position to win. With that confidence, I made my move on those hills and broke open the race, running 4:55, 5:01, and 5:02 for miles 20-23.

The biggest difference that is not shown in the times is how I felt. During the workout, I kept it much more in control. This build up, I am not trying to hit the workouts “out of the park.” And sticking with the baseball analogy, it is much better to be a Joe DiMaggio and have a 56 game hitting streak and a .325 career batting average, than Barry Bonds, all drugs aside, and hit 762 home runs, but strikeout over 80 times a season (Joe only struck out 34 times a season). Now, I am a much more accomplished runner. I am the 2014 USA Marathon Champion, broke 4 for the mile, and just finished my most successful season in the fall. And this has led me to not have to prove anything in workouts, like I did last time (running sub 5 up those hills). In these last 18 months, my entire view of training has changed. I am more focused on keeping everything a bit more restrained, knowing that getting quality workouts in is more important than running hard, and placing my trust in Pete and the process.

While on the topic, some great advice from LetsRun founder Weldon Johnson is “there are no bonus points for running ‘hard.’ The point is to run fast. There is a difference.” (Also the whole article is a good read). This idea is something that one often has to learn the hard way, which was the way I learned it.

The last mile was supposed to be fastest of the day. In the TC workout, it was the fastest, but tied for the fastest, and I was exhausted when I finished. There was not much faster I could have run. On Tuesday, I elected to finish the workout on the slight uphill of the first mile of the bike path, again replicating the finish of LA. Also I snowballed it on the quarters. While I was working hard to run pace, every quarter would approach and I could easily find another gear, so by the end I was running around 4:30 pace! From this I was able to gain confidence that I will be able to run fast the last few miles at the trials.

The Downs

The afternoon of the workout, my right quad was a little sore. But with a harder effort, that can be expected, so I ignored it. The next day, the soreness was gone and I had completely forgotten about it. Then on Thursday, two days after the workout, I was 3 miles or so into the run and my quad was starting to feel really sore and tight. Now I was fully aware of it, but since the pain was not sharp or changing my stride, I just dealt with it. A few miles later it began to spasm and I had to stop for a couple of minutes. I started running slowly and for a few minutes the pain receded back to the previous level. Then it struck again and I was stopped in my tracks. After that I had trouble starting again, and when I did, I could tell my stride was off and it hurt placing weight on my leg. With so much on the line in LA, I took the hard route and began to walk and hitched a right the few miles back to the starting area.

While the hard choice to make is to cut the run short and not muscle through the pain, it is usually the correct choice. I had to tell myself, that I am very fit right now and a few days easy will not change that fact. I ended up taking Friday completely off and pushed an easy, tester run on Saturday to the afternoon to maximize the amount of recovery time between runs. With no pain during the run, only some soreness after, I ran a bit more on Sunday, and yesterday I was back to a pretty standard day. So rather than a small cramp turning into something else, I took a few easy days to remain healthy.

Our annual team dinner at Decent Pizza.

Our annual team dinner at Decent Pizza.

Out of this episode, I can take a few positives. One is how much I have matured and grown. College Tyler would have tried to push through the pain, probably leading to either a more serious quad injury or a compensation injury. I was able to look at the bigger picture and make the better choice in the long term.

Another positive is that it was a reminder to keep up on the little things, like hydration, stretching, and nutrition. My first year at Western, Coach Vandenbusche (and more on him later) would say that it takes 10 things to make a good runner. I often forget the first nine. There were things like eating well, taking vitamins, stretching, etc., but the tenth was most important. I can still hear his booming voice, “And all of those I just listed, don’t mean anything if you can’t do the tenth. Stay healthy.” If I am not healthy and running, then doing all the other things is futile. The way to get better is run, it is just all the little things that allow you to stay healthy.

– – –

Before I sign off for the week, I have to share a great website. Coach Vandenbusche built a program at Western that I was fortunate to get to be apart of. I was only under his tutelage for one year, but his legacy has lived on. For over 35 years he was at the helm of a program he built to become one of the best in the NCAA, and I was able to be apart of it. With that said I would like to share one memory I have of Coach.

I when I was looking at colleges to go to, I every other school told me that I could “walk on”. On the other hand, Coach Vandenbusche made a personal visit to my parents’ house and offered me a scholarship. He must have seen some potential in me and took a chance. This was all an awkward kid from Golden needed. Without the confidence that Coach Vandenbusche had in me, I would not have spent six fantastic years in the Gunnison Country, nor would I be where I am now.

In under three weeks time, I will line up on the streets of LA, hoping that I can add to his legacy and the legacy he built at Western State and be the third Olympian from Western.

Here is a video of Coach’s speech, after being inducted into the USA Track and Field Coach’s Association Hall of Fame.

 

 

2016 Olympic Trials Marathon Project

6 weeks until the Trials!

This weekend I headed to Jacksonville, Florida for a marathon simulation race/workout. I did the same exact workout in my build up to the 2014 Twin Cities Marathon. The goal of the workout is to run marathon pace for 10 miles, then “snowball” the last three, hopefully finishing around half marathon pace. There were many similarities between the two races. In both races I ended up running marathon pace, but not picking it was very much, if at all really. This weekend I only marginally picked it up the last few miles. My pacing was just average. I would “yo-yo” between 4:50 and 5 minutes a mile. This is not ideal, but overall it was not terrible, but races are rarely run at exactly the same pace. At Twin Cities, the pace varied from 5:14-5:02 before the racing began late in the race.

Another similarity is that I thought after both races, I could have gone another six miles, to around 30km. With six weeks to go until the Trials, this is a great place to be. Running on tired legs now should help me peak well when it matters.

It was awesome to pace these guys to a Trials Qualifier! Such a great experience!

It was awesome to pace these guys to a Trials Qualifier! Such a great experience!

The one difference that stands out in my mind was the weather. At Virginia Beach, it was around 80 degrees and humid. This weekend in Jacksonville it was around 50 degrees and rainy. Both affected my effort, and even though this weekend had the “better” weather, I ended up getting cold the last few miles. I think had I not been so cold, I would have been much more willing to pick it up the last few miles.

Overall, I was very happy with the workout. The similarities between the two efforts show that I am in a good spot leading into the Trials in nearly six weeks. Running 64:31 in the tail end of 115 miles in seven days is a good effort. I am getting more used to training on tired legs, which will make running on fresh legs at the Trials that much easier!

Splits from the race:
14:51 (about 5:08, 4:54, 4:50), 4:51, 4:59 (24:42 5 miles)
4:54, 5:03, 4:54, 4:54, 4:50 (49:20 10 miles), 4:51, 4:56, 4:52

12/27-1/2

  Morning Afternoon Notes
Sunday 12   Travel to ATL
Monday 14   10 x 30 sec, Travel to Tallahassee
Tuesday 12 8  
Wednesday 15   Workout
Thursday 10 6  
Friday 13 5 8 x 200m, Drills
Saturday 10   4 x 30 sec, Drills
  Week Total 105  
Workout:
2 x 1km, 1:30 rest, 3:30 set rest; 
40 min alternating 80% and 90% effort every 5 min; 6 x 200m

2016 Olympic Trials Marathon Project

Front page of the sports section on Monday! Even over football!

Front page of the sports section on Monday! Even over football!

The big story for the weekend was The 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon Project, and this was the highlight of my weekend. This was organized by Richard Fannin, the (in)famous elite coordinator of the Gate River Run. Richard cares so much about improving American distance running and it shows in Gate River and now what he did at the Jax Bank Half. Every year he brings in a stellar field to Gate River, even though it is in the early spring, which is not the prime time of the year for road racing. He pours his soul into making the race the best, and of the three years I have run it, I have not been disappointed. Well maybe with a few of my performances, but I cannot blame him for that.

The hype for the Jax Bank Half started this fall when Richard began to tout this race as a great place to qualify for the Olympic Trials. For those who do not know, you can qualify for the Trials with a half marathon (It is the only race where you do not have to actually run the distance to qualify). He was saying that course was flat, the weather is (usually) great, and there were going to be pacers running at the standard pace (65 and 75 minutes for guys and girls respectively). Just as with Twin Cities, I was looking for a race to run where I could do a Marathon specific workout and Jax fit perfectly into my schedule. When I contacted Richard about running the race, he was thrilled with what I was doing and asked me to be the pacer. This was a unique opportunity that I did not want to pass up. It ended up being way more than expected.

Richard ended up having over 60 guys who had either qualified or were looking to qualify for the Trials at the race. Some who were looking at qualifying had missed by only a few seconds in their previous attempts, and this was a last chance to qualify. Of the 40 or so that had not qualified, who had traveled there on their own dime, all came with a mission. There was a sense of camaraderie among the group, something that does not happen often in sports.

I have sat here for a while not knowing where to start. It is one of those situations where it is hard to put my thoughts on to paper. There were many moments during and after the race that expressed the feeling of camaraderie. On the first major turn of the course, I heard guys behind me saying out the direction of the turn so that the guys behind would be prepared. Same thing if there was a bump or big puddle in the road. Another time, when I let the pace slip (I ran a 5:03 7th mile) someone went to the front and began to help me. I was able to regain my focus and then get back to pace. Around 10 miles, Pat Regan who I ran against in college, pulled up next to me and said, “I feel good!” I responded, “Well, let’s go!” At 11 miles I looked back and told the group that we were 15 seconds under pace, and there was a almost a sigh of relief. Everyone in the group seemed to relax and many of them began to pick it up. Most that went by me gave me thanks, and as they started to race I went with them.

Then at the finish line, the true spirit of the day was shown. There ended up being eight guys directly in front of me and twelve behind me that all hit the standard. All of them had big smiles on their faces and many of them gave me a hug. For me it was beyond what I was expecting to be there, helping these guys get their qualifier. While I had known some of the guys in the race before hand, most I did not. Seeing how happy they were made my experience of the race that much better. It made crossing the line with them so much more meaningful.

Even beyond just the elite side, people watching and in the race knew that there was something different about the race. The atmosphere of the race was much more about working together then competing against each other. When walking to the car Andrew, Griff, and I began talking with a lady who asked if we were part of the “big group that went flying by.” She mentioned that it was great to see so many guys working together to run fast.

Proud of this girl! :)

Proud of this girl! 🙂

Here is a little plug to Richard, which is kind of a thanks for everything. From a numbers standpoint, the race ended up being a resounding success. Fourteen women (Seven new qualifiers) and 27 men! (18 new qualifiers) ran under the standard for the Trials. To put this in perspective, at the US Half Marathon Championships in 2015 had 48 qualifiers and the 2014 Championship had 32 qualifiers on the men’s side. In a race where there was no travel support (only a hotel room shared with three other people) and $500 for the win, Richard put together a field that had near USA Championship level depth. That alone goes to show his commitment to the sport. Thanks Richard for putting together a once in a lifetime event!

I could not finish with out mentioning that Nicole ran a fantastic race and ran under the standard! Unfortunately I was not able to see her finish, as I had a short workout to do after my race, but I was so proud of her. And now she is coming to visit me in Tallahassee for a few days!

Before I sign off, I will have to plug Esther Atkins (formerly Erb) blog about the race. Esther is a former ZAP athlete and a good friend and she does a much better job of explaining how this race morphed into such an awesome event. I feel she also gives a much better explanation of the atmosphere of the race. I recommend taking a few minutes to read it.

Male Results:

Female Results:

Three Week Update

In my last blog I said that I would send out a weekly update, but that turned out to not happen. While at home, and for various reasons, I did not really have the will power to send out a blog. So now you get a nice overview of the last three weeks and my hope is that once settled in Tallahassee it should be much easier to post regularly.

Week One

12/6-12

Morning Afternoon Notes
Sunday 21 Long Run, Surges
Monday 8 5
Tuesday 12 6 Drills and Strides, Core
Wednesday 15 Workout
Thursday 10 6 Core
Friday 12 6
Saturday 10 Travel to ATL
Week Total 111

The first week of the three was the first in the 10 week build up that Pete likes. He feels that it is long enough to get some good marathon specific sessions in, but not so long that we over-train or peak too early. Also with the training that we do year round being more aerobic anyways, the transition to marathon specificity is not hard.

The week started out with our first marathon long run. It was not much different than some of my previous long runs, only that I went a few extra miles. We had surges every ten minutes and we were moving well on the rolling hills of Watauga River Road. We ran every mile faster than the previous, and my last three were all around 5:05! It was a good way to start the road to Rio!

The lone workout of the week was a simple 10 mile progression run. This is a staple of the ZAP playbook and one that we do all year round, not just in marathon training. This makes us very familiar with how to run the workout and the route. For a workout like this we always head to Todd Railroad Grade Road. The road starts in Todd, NC and follows an old railroad along the New River. It is gradually downhill (100 feet over the course of 10 miles), and so much so that you hardly notice.

Overall the workout was good, despite the second mile being a tad too fast. But those fast first few miles, which were supposed to be around 5:30 pace, really made the last three tough. During the last 5km I just focused on maintaining my form and a high cadence as I began to tire, something that is very important for during any race, but especially true for the marathon. With all aspects equal, the person who is able to hold his or her form late in the race, will be the one who wins.

Workout:
10 mile progression run
Splits:
5:18, 5:08, 5:20, 5:20, 5:15, 5:06, 5:13, 4:56, 4:44, 4:48 = 51:10

After my run on Saturday I made the drive to Atlanta, then few out to Colorado the next day. I will spend the next two weeks in Colorado for the holidays then fly back and finish the trek to Tallahassee and our stint in Florida with begin!

Week Two

12/13-19

Morning Afternoon Notes
Sunday 15 Light Fartlek, Travel to CO
Monday 10 6
Tuesday 8
Wednesday 21 Long Run, Surges, Treadmill
Thursday 8 6
Friday 12 8
Saturday 15 Workout: 8-1 Fartlek
Week Total 109

I started out the week in Atlanta as I was flying out to Colorado. I spent the night at a friend of Pete’s who lives right along the Chattahoochee River. There are an abundance of trails with in a half mile of his apartment, which is on the top floor of a complex with a great view of Atlanta.

After a long warm up I started a light Fartlek, 5 by 90, 45, 30 seconds, with the rest what comes next. So after the 90 seconds was 45 seconds, etc. This was the first workout that I really began to feel the “marathon grind”. For the entire run I felt lethargic and tired. The previous two weeks were beginning to catch up with me. While it is not enjoyable feeling this way, is a good thing as it means I am gaining fitness. For the next six weeks I should feel no different.

Hitting up the Community Center with the old folks! 21 miles on the ol' treadmill.

Hitting up the Community Center with the old folks! 21 miles on the ol’ treadmill.

I arrived in Colorado and within a few days over a foot had snowed, which of course happened to be on my long run day. This meant that I had to head inside for 21 miles on the treadmill. While I would have preferred to do my run outside, running over 2 hours on the treadmill was not terrible. I put on a podcast and zoned out for the first forty minutes, changing the incline and pace when I felt it was needed. After that I had some surges every ten minutes. This is what really made the run go by much faster. It kept me more occupied than I would have other wise. Another benefit of working out on the treadmill is that I was able to easily practice taking in fluid. With out the help of Pete and Ryan, it is much harder to practice fluid intake. With two slots on the treadmill for bottles I was covered! Even though I was tired, I finished the long run well, running near 5 min pace while all the old folks walked beside me.

The other workout I had for the week was an 8-1 Fartlek. The 7-1 Fartlek is a standard workout at ZAP, and the only difference is that there is an additional 8 minute piece at the beginning. It adds another 12 minutes (over two miles) to the workout, as the rest is “half time.”

I was able to have a good long run earlier in the week, but I was still tired as this workout rolled around. I set off with the idea to do an out and back on a trail, and in the first 8 minute piece I felt alright. The path was slightly uphill and into the wind, but the trees lining the path helped keep the wind at bay. I started out the 7 minute piece and around halfway through, I went around a bend and there was no more trees. The last half of the 7 minute piece was tough. I could feel myself slowing down fighting the wind. I finished the rep and took the float much slower than normal. Ideally the float section is fairly fast at the beginning of the workout, so the first half is more of a tempo effort, and gradually slows down as the on pieces get faster and shorter. Since I was struggling, I turned around for the 6 minute piece so that I could be running slightly downhill and with the wind. This helped tremendously. For the rest of the workout I would take the on pieces down and the float uphill.

Since I was able to recover from the tough 7 minute piece, I was able to have an OK workout. I was able to complete the workout and get the work in, which is most important right now. It was also a reminder that not all the workouts are going to be fantastic. Ones that are “home runs.” This fall I was feeling great, running great workouts, and great races. It was easy to forget that earlier in the fall, I was feeling tired and had some workouts that were just OK. It is all a process, and feeling tired now does not mean I will always be tired. On the contrary, as I adapt to the higher mileage I will start to feel better.

We took a drive up Lookout Mountain in Golden!

We took a drive up Lookout Mountain in Golden!

Also this week, Nicole visited Colorado on her way back from Club Cross Country in San Francisco. I was excited to show her where I grew up and the awesomeness of Colorado (Ballerado as Cole sarcastically calls it). With the big snowfall she was able to get the full experience of Colorado. On Sunday night we had an early birthday party for me at my parents house, and since her flight was late getting in, she arrived to a house full of my family and friends all waiting to meet her (and see me too I guess). She also shoveled her first driveway. She thought it was fun, but she has only done it once! We went on a scenic drive up Lookout Mountain, which overlooks all of the Denver Metro Area, and walked along downtown Golden to look at the lights. I was sad to see her head back to Atlanta, but we had a good time together in Colorado.

Week Three

12/20-26

Morning Afternoon Notes
Sunday 12 8
Monday 8 Birthday!
Tuesday 12 8
Wednesday 14 Workout
Thursday 10 6
Friday 24 Long Run, Surges, Christmas!
Saturday 10
Week Total 112

My workout this week was a “downcycle” workout. This is a standard of the ZAP playbook as it works on many things. Mostly it works on changing gears while running fast, which is always important in races especially road races. The only difference was that I had way more reps than normal.

Workout:
5,4,3 x 2:30 min “downcycle”, 90 sec float, 3 min between sets

I headed to Crown Hill Park, which has a great paved 2km loop around a lake to do my workout. With having to practice fueling during my workouts, this was a good place that I could do that without having to drive and drop them off different places.

Overall the workout was good. About half the loop had a nasty headwind (that also means the other half had a tailwind!) which lead to a pretty significant change of pace. But most of the early work in marathon training is more about getting in the work in than running specific paces.

Just a few days later, on Christmas, I had a long run. This was because it was supposed to snow on Christmas night. I would rather have done my long run a day early than do a repeat of the treadmill. With this long run being more of a TOF (time on feet) long run, I ended up running the longest I have ever gone in training! Fortunately I made the right call as it snowed around six inches that night, which made for a true “White Christmas”.

Break

One thing I have noticed is that after a break, it always takes me a while to get back into the swing of things, especially on getting back on a weekly posting schedule. Part of it is that I am a terrible procrastinator, and another part is that I do not like to put out a half ass (pardon my French) blog out there. I try to hold myself to a high standard, which often leads to me editing and reediting my writing. Hopefully from here I should post every week leading to the Trials!

For the sake of simplicity I am going to give a week by week recap, so there should be three sections for the three week since my last blog!

Me and the parents at the Jefferson Memorial. The lighting was awesome right at dusk!

Me and the parents at the Jefferson Memorial. The lighting was awesome right at dusk!

After finishing a fantastic fall season, I was looking forward to little break before the madness that is marathon training. Rather than spend it at ZAP, I stayed a few days exploring Washington and the surrounding area with my parents. We had a busy few days going to Harper’s Ferry and Antietam (Sharpsburg) Battlefield on Monday, the Manassas (Bull Run) Battlefield on Tuesday, and the National Mall on Wednesday. It was fun to explore these historical sites, especially as a history nerd, and the Civil War being the first historical period that captured my interest while still in elementary school. There is so much history packed into such a small area in northern Virginia and Maryland, that we were only able to see a portion of it.

From DC I headed back to Blowing Rock for a few days before I headed to Greenville, SC and eventually Atlanta to spend Thanksgiving with Nicole. It was nice to have a family Thanksgiving, compared to some that I have spent at the Black Bear Restaurant at the Hartford Airport. While in Atlanta, we explored a bit of the downtown area, and on Friday we went to Lake Lanier to look at the Christmas light display.

A perfect day for a hike along the Parkway

A perfect day for a hike along the Parkway

Eventually I had to get back to Blowing Rock as the build in week for marathon training started on November 29th. I had a good two week break that included a copious amount of food and some time off of my feet. I felt recharged both mentally and physically. Now, the over two months of hard training leading into the Trials did not seems so daunting. That week Griff and I had our first workout, a simple ladder Fartlek while climbing up the Blue Ridge Parkway. It ended up being a good workout even though I felt a little flat, but that is to be expected when coming off of a break. Other than a good long run on Sunday previous, the week was just simple easy to medium miles, the heart of marathon training. Also that week Nicole made the trip up to Blowing Rock for the weekend. We were able to spend some more time together and even went on hike along the Parkway. Lately the weather has been fantastic, probably making up for the abundant rainfall we have had this fall, and we chose a great day to go and hike!

After this last week, the traditional 10 week marathon build up starts. Split into seven 10 day cycles, meaning that Pete will have us do a marathon specific long run every 10 days with either one or two workouts between. Essentially taking a 7 day week and elongating it. We did this style of training for the build up to Twin Cities, and I responded well. Also in the build up for Twin Cities, I ran a “race” where the first 10 miles were marathon pace, then picked it up for the final three. I will be doing the same thing in this build up a the Jacksonville Bank Half Marathon, only this time I will be the “official pacer” for guys aiming at running the Olympic Trials half marathon standard of 65 minutes. Right now there are over 60 guys running the race and over 30 of them are looking to hit the standard (the other half have already hit the standard!).

11/15-21

Morning Afternoon Notes
Sunday 13 Race
Monday 5
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday Travel to NC
Friday 7
Saturday
Week Total 25

11/22-28

Morning Afternoon Notes
Sunday 12
Monday 10
Tuesday 10
Wednesday
Thursday 10
Friday
Saturday 8
Week Total 50

11/29-12/5

Morning Afternoon Notes
Sunday 19 Long Run, Surges
Monday 8 5
Tuesday 12 6 Drills and Strides, Core
Wednesday 14 Workout
Thursday 12 6 Drills and Strides, Core
Friday 12 Hike
Saturday 10
Week Total 104
Workout:
1-5,-5-1 min Fartlek along the Parkway, half rest

.US 12km Champs

On Sunday I headed to Alexandria, Virginia for the .US 12km National Championships. This was my culminating race of my fall season. At this same race two years ago, I had a break through performance placing 3rd. This year I came in with high hopes of improving on that place.

The Race

The morning of the race was near perfect conditions, high 30’s and sunny with no wind. I knew that it would be ideal conditions to run fast, but that was not the goal for the day. I was there to race, so I stuck with my plan to hang in the pack for the first 5 miles.

The close finish!

The close finish!

The gun went off, and I found myself at the front in the first few hundred meters. The pace was slow and it seemed that no one wanted to lead. Eventually I tucked back into the pack, where I would stay until a mile to go. We went through the first mile in 4:52, well slower than what I would have liked, but I knew that my training this fall had prepared me for any type of race. I could handle a hard even pace, or a slow kicker style race.

After the mile, the pace began to quicken as Jon Grey went to the front and pushed. Over the next few miles the pack began to shrink as the pace steadily increased. We went through 5km in 14:52 and 8km in 23:28 (17:50 at half way). Over these few miles, it seemed that someone would take the lead and surge for a minute or two then slow down after it was clear that no one else would help them. Eventually defending champ, Brian Shrader, made a big move that began to get the ball rolling. Another few people fell off the pack between 8 and 10km (29:12), and from there the racing for the finish began.

I had focused staying as relaxed as possible for the first 10km, even when my legs began to feel the pace increase (I clocked a 4:30ish in there somewhere, 5 to 6 miles I think), I kept repeating my mantra, “Relaxed, Strong, Fast.” Around the 10km mark, Jared Ward, the overall winner of the circuit, made his first appearance at the front. He is a skilled downhill runner, and made his move on the first of two declines. I stayed tucked in, until almost exactly a mile to go Sam Chelanga made a surge up a hill. I saw him start to pull away from everyone and not wanting him to get away, I chased up after him. The hill ended up being short and I carried my momentum up and over the crest. I led the charge down the second hill and in to the final turn, which was around ¾ of a mile to go.

The final straight away passed by much too fast but seemingly took forever. It was nearly a straight shot to the finish and only a slight bend in the last couple hundred meters disguised the finish. I settled from the momentum that the hill provided, but there were still four on my heels. We began to pack up and I found myself sharing the lead with Sam and Jared. With 600m to go Sam put a surge, and I went with him, and after only a few seconds I was even with him and continued to push. The field was strung behind me, with Sam directly following. I knew that my push for the finish had started. Even so, I was still trying to save one more gear for the final sprint. Sam passed me with 200m to go and got a few precious steps on me. Even though I thought I was saving an extra gear, it was not there immediately. Eventually, I ever so slowly began to gain ground. With the hope that Sam would run out of gas in the last few meters, I continued to push, but I ran out of real estate before the finish line. Once again, Sam had finished just in front of me in a sprint finish, but it was much closer this time. Only 3/10 of a second separated us!

Thoughts

The finish line photo. So close!

The finish line photo. So close!

I came into this race with one main goal: To improve on my finish from two years ago (3rd), but with my eye on winning. I was able to achieve that goal, and was less than 3/10 of a second from winning. Overall it was a great performance. I ran a smart race, putting myself in the best position to win, and just as importantly, I left everything I had in the race. Other than that, I feel there is not much more to say than, “Watch the race! It’s exciting!”

Being my final race of the season, I feel like it an apt time to look back at the season. Especially what I was accomplished. I entered the fall season with some very high goals. At ZAP, each of us has a goal board in the dinning hall with our goals for the season. On mine is written:

  1. Win 2 National Titles
  2. Top 3 at all races this fall
  3. Make the Olympic Team

All three are measureable and straightforward, but the first two were the relevant ones for this fall. While I was not able to fully accomplish them, I do not view the fall as a failure. On the contrary, it was a rounding success. During this whole year, I have been building positive momentum, and it cumulated in the last three races. I started the year off with a nagging Achilles, which forced me to take a month off and not race for a few months. When I did race, they were unexceptional performances at best. After a few rust busters, I moved from the roads to the track for my most intensive track season at ZAP (a whole six races!). I was able to build through out track season and finished with personal bests at the mile, 5000m, and 100000m. I then capped off the season with a great performance at the Peachtree Road Race. The fall season started out well, but as the season moved forward, I was running better and better. I finished the last three races of the year with two runner-ups and one victory. Now I need to keep this positive momentum flowing in to the winter season and into the Marathon Trials.

My last goal on my board is clearly one that I could not accomplish this fall, but it was there as a constant reminder of main goal. A reminder that this fall was to be used as a foundation that I could build from towards the Olympic Trials.

Over my last few blogs, I have talked about how Pete has wanted me to develop different running systems. This means that he wanted me to be able to be competitive at many different distances. Hence the reason I was running 5km all the way to 20km. But the system that Pete wanted me to develop the most was my ability to finish my races. This spring was a big step in the development of my “speed”. I had a breakthrough in both the mile and 5000m, setting big PRs. Now I just needed to be able to transfer that “track speed” to the roads. In my early season races, I struggled the last half mile, but I was still in the mix near the front. Once I rounded into shape, I was able to find extra gears and was within a combined two seconds of winning two national titles.

From here, I can use this fall as a springboard into marathon training (after a break of course). This fall, and the last year in general, both Pete and myself have figured out what works for me. Knowing what works well for me has helped make me consistent, both in training and racing. It is consistency that brings success in distance running. After my break I will get back to the monotonous life style that defines a professional athlete, but one that thrives on consistency. As long as I my training stays consistent, I know that even with the numerous guys in the mix to make the team, I can achieve that final goal.

Here is a good blog by Liz Costello (8th this weekend) about the “Robotic Lifestyle” of a professional athlete.

Thanks

One thing I noticed, and maybe because I was tuned in only to my own name, was that I felt I had a ton of support during the race. I heard my name numerous times in the first half-mile, even over the white noise of the crowd. First, Pete was there with his inarticulate whoops and hollers. Over the last three years, both Pete and myself have learned much about me as an athlete. Three years ago, I choose to accept ZAP’s invitation to join the team, with the confidence that Pete’s training would be the correct fit for me. Looking back, I made a good choice. Coming from Colorado, I could have easily stayed there and joined one of the countless teams there. Instead I headed east, against the advice of Horace Greeley, and it has paid dividends.

Pete is only part of ZAP, albeit an important one. We had several campers there, who live in DC and some who flew in to run the race and support ZAP. Their support is fundamental to my and ZAP’s success. People coming to camp and giving donations are the two main ways that we fund ZAP. Without our campers and donors, ZAP would not survive.

Also watching was Patrick Joyce, the Senior Manager of Global Sports Marketing at Reebok. He flew down from Boston just to watch and support us. ZAP’s near 11 year partnership with Reebok has helped all of us continue to train and beyond the awesome gear that they furnish us with, they help with much of our travel to races.

The whole gang! I am extremely appreciative of their support!

The whole gang! I am extremely appreciative of their support!

For the first time since my marathon victory in 2014, my parents were able to see me run. I was hoping their presence would help me win another national title, but it was not to happen this time. Along with my parents were some family friends in attendance. It means so much to me that they were there and were able to see me race. Seeing how happy they were about my race is one of the reasons I love to run.

Beyond just the personal support, this race would not have happened with out USATF and the race sponsor Neustar. Three years ago, USATF decided that they were going to finish the USA Running Circuit off with a high level race, where one has to qualify to be in the invited field. Since most USA Running Circuit Championships are part of already existing races, they created the .US 12km out of thin air. I feel that they have done a fantastic in promoting and expanding the race. The open race has expanded every year, and more elites are running. With the three year contract between Neustar and USATF at an end, I hope that something can be figured out to continue this race. It has potential to become one of the premier road races in the USA, like Peachtree or Bolder Boulder.

I would be remised if I did not mention my teammates. Both George and Griff ran this weekend. We all came into the 12km at different points in our seasons. I was running my finale. Griff is in the middle of a short racing season while transitioning between two marathons cycles. George is at the beginning of his winter season. While I think that we all had higher hopes for the race, each one of us still ran well.

Postscript:
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TC 10 Mile

This weekend I headed to Minneapolis/St. Paul to race the USATF 10 Mile Championships. A year ago I made the same trip and walked (very slowly) away with my first national title. Coming into this time, I had thoughts of a similar result in my mind. My previous two races had not been what I wanted, but training had been much better the last two weeks, and the tiredness I had been feeling was dissipating. With those positive signs, I was feeling confident of a good race. Now I just needed to get to the Twin Cities and on the starting line!

The Race

The race played out similar to the 20km from four weeks prior, and almost exactly as I thought it would. Through out the race the pace was honest, but not outrageous, so there was a big pack up front that would slowly dwindle as the constant rhythm began to wear on people. Having planned for a race like this, I was mentally ready. I stuck to my race plan of hanging in the pack, smooth, relaxed, and strong. Only once I drifted to the front, but quickly returned to the pack.

Right after I took the lead around Mile 9! Headed to the finish.

Right after I took the lead around Mile 9! Headed to the finish.

We reached 5 miles in 23:45 with a dozen still in the front pack. From there, the pace increased as we crested the hills on Summit Ave at mile 7, then the racing began. Ritz was the first to make the move around mile 8, and the pack followed. I knew that the final 800m is extremely fast and I would be more comfortable with some separation before then. There was a slight hill headed into the final mile, which I took full advantage of and surged up it. I continued to press as we crested and it was downhill from there, increasing my pace every minute or so. All those surges on the long runs were paying off! Running from the front is a frightening experience. You do not know where the rest of the pack is. For a while I could hear footsteps behind me, and eventually they were lost in the noise of the crowd, but I just kept pushing.

As we reached the Cathedral of St. Paul, I fully let go and let gravity take me down the steep hill. It was here a year ago that I truly realized I was going to win. Unfortunately, this race was still undecided. As the road leveled, I continued to push, but could see the shadow of Sam off my shoulder. I think he fell back for a few seconds, but with 150m to go he began to pull aside me, and I put one last effort to hold him off, but it was to no avail. After a few more strides, he was clear and I was tying up.

Thoughts

My first thought after crossing the line, was disappointment. No surprise there. I wanted to win the race and came up agonizingly short. I will often repeat the idiom, “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” While that idiom still holds true, as it will go down in the books that Sam Chelanga is the 2015 USATF 10 Mile Champ, I feel much better about this second place than others.

Minutes after the race, I the disappointment began fade, especially after being doubled over gasping for air. I realized that I ran as hard as I could. I left everything the streets of St. Paul. Sam was just better on that day. At this level, everyone is talented, everyone works hard, and everyone wants to win. Often the race goes to who felt best on the day. Four weeks ago at the 20km, Jared Ward felt the best and blew everyone’s doors off in the last 800m. He did not have his best day on Sunday, finishing 8th, and he was looking for better. With the quality of fields that have running the USA Road Circuit this fall, minuscule differences can change results. The only truly way to be satisfied is to run as hard as you can, knowing that you gave your best effort that day.

This is my favorite picture from the weekend. For me it shows how hard I ran. I left everything on the streets of St. Paul in an attempt to win.  Photo credit: Matt Sonnenfelt/Flynn Sports

This is my favorite picture from the weekend. For me it shows how hard I ran. I left everything on the streets of St. Paul in an attempt to win.
Photo credit: Matt Sonnenfelt/Flynn Sports

The biggest positive I was able to find in this race, was that I executed my race plan to near perfection. I am a good hill runner, and I have used this to my advantage in the past, including the last two Peachtree Road Races. While I was able to break most of the field in those two, I still ended up second, having run my own legs out from under me for the final kilometer. For this race, Pete and I settled on the idea that yes, I am a great hill runner, so that means I should be able to feel better once we get to the crest of the hills. I should have a couple of extra percent in the tank compared to everyone else, to use in the last mile.

The basic plan Pete and I devised was to hang around the pack until mile 8, then see how the race plays out. Once I made my move, it was for the finish. Only one time did I find myself at the front pushing, but I quickly realized what I was doing and settled back into the pack. I did not want to make a move so early in the race, even though that was the section of the marathon course I pulled away. I wanted to save every bit for the final mile.

One thing everyone at ZAP always chides me about how analytical and reason based I am, often coming across as stoic and even cold. But there is a bit of an idealistic and even romantic side to me, especially in my philosophy on running. In training I am methodical and rarely anything other than reason drive my training. While that sounds very monotonous and boring, it does not mean that I do not love training! I love going out for my second runs out at Moses Cone Park and enjoying the sense freedom of the trails. But it is all within the well thought out and reasoned training plan.

Steve Prefontaine - Art

Not to get too corny, but this quote sums up one of the aspects of racing that I enjoy so much. Just as people go to football games to be entertained, people come to races for that same reason. I want to put on a show through my racing. I want people to be on the edge of their seats. I want people to get as much joy from watching me run, as I am doing it.

It is then for me that races are the opposite. They are the time that I get to let the idealistic and romantic side come out. I race because I love racing, just as much as training, but for different reasons. I love to test myself against both my previous self and others. This had led to me frequently taking the lead in races when I should not. The races this fall have been about finding the best way for me to compete for the win in races, which often makes me use my rational side while racing. This weekend I was able to find a balance of these two opposing forces. I used the rational, calculating part to keep myself in check for the first eight miles, and then let my personality and heart take over. I will never know if I would have won had I waited a little bit longer before I made my move, but once made my move for the win, I ran just as ferociously as in the past.

This race was a continuation of my overarching goals for the fall, to gain more race experience, especially against the guys I will be racing in February. My first two races were a bit a disappointment as I was able to hang with the leaders until 800m to go, only to be quickly dropped. I was a bit frustrated by that fact, as Pete had been gearing my training with the idea that I would be finishing my races well in an attempt to win. Since I was able to do that this race, I gained a good amount of confidence headed into my final two races, and the trials in general. Pete and I are using this fall to perfect racing and training strategies that will come in handy for the Trails. So far, this fall has been a learning experience, both about disappointment and success. Regardless how my final two races of the fall turn out, I will be a better runner, and more prepared to run for the privilege to dawn the USA singlet in Rio.

I would also give a big congrats to both Molly Huddle and Sam Chelanga. Molly ran an impressive race. While I was not able to watch it unfold, I was amazed by her performance. The TC 10 Mile course is not easy. There are plenty of hills to slow you down, but none of that mattered. She ran an American best in an all women’s race, but unfortunately it cannot be ratified as the course is point to point. Nonetheless, it is still a fantastic performance. Sam too ran a great race, biding his time, letting others set the pace. He also won his first USATF national title, as he recently became a U.S. citizen. You only need to watch his interview to see how proud and ecstatic he is about doing so.

From here I am going to be running the 12km champs in Alexandria, Virginia. I will have one race between now and then to keep my racing legs fresh, but that is TBD. This weekend I was asked more than once, if the Trials were on my mind. I responded, “Not too much. I am focusing on this season first.” But that is nowhere near the truth, as the Trials are coming up quick! I am constantly thinking about the Trials and what it is going to take to make the team, who will be in the hunt for the team (Let’s Run did a good pre-preview here, about half way down), what this marathon cycle will be like? It is rarely far from my mind, as my biggest race so far in my career will start at 10am on February 13 in the City of Angels.

Don't miss out on these specially edition Reebok trainers! They are going fast!

Don’t miss out on these specially edition Reebok trainers! They are going fast!

Before I sign off, I have to mention the new special edition ZAP Fitness Reebok 3.0 shoes! They look fantastic. The ZAP Fitness logo is stitched into the tongue, the geographic coordinates of ZAP are stamped on the side, and a topographic map of the Blue Ridge area is embossed on the insoles. If you are interested in purchasing a pair, head to the ZAP Fitness website!

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